Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako explained that the mistrust and possibilities of confrontation between the Muslim North and the Christian-animist South continue to be very great, in a press conference, organized by Aid to the Church in Need.
However, there is "still room for hope," he said from Cologne, where he is participating in the events of World Youth Day, if Garang's successors keep to the latter's "message of peace."
John Garang, named on July 9 as first vice president of Sudan, died July 30 in a helicopter accident, the causes of which are as yet unknown. Following his death, disturbances broke out in the capital city of Khartoum.
Garang was one of the founders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which for 21 years engaged in civil war with the central government in an effort to secure the independence of the country's south.
Oil and laws
The peoples of the South, composed of mainly Christians and animists, fought against the South's Islamization promoted from Khartoum, and especially against the introduction of Islamic law in their provinces.
Another reason for the conflict is the existence of rich oil fields in southern Sudan. On Jan. 9 a peace agreement was signed, bringing to an end the war which began in 1983 and which, according to some estimates, claimed the lives of some 2.5 million people, and displaced more than 5 million.
Regarding the South's threat to secede, Cardinal Wako pointed out that the next few years will be decisive, and that the country's stability will depend to a large extent on honesty when it comes to sharing raw materials and imposing human rights.
The cardinal added that he believes it to be essential to support the parties that are struggling seriously for democracy and the rights of man.
He also said that it is very important to re-establish the Church's presence so that refugees can return to the South, as the "people go where the Church is, because they know that they will receive help there," noted Cardinal Wako.
Sudan has a population of some 33 million, belonging to 572 different tribes. The Arab-Muslim population (39%) predominates in the north, while in the south the population is composed primarily of Christians and followers of natural religions.